Little Lenny Kämna, eh? Who'd have thought it? Although our Ben did swap him out for Richard Carapaz at the last minute. Ouch. That's gotta smart.
A big mountain GC-fest on the cards for stage 17. Or is it?
Grenoble - Méribel col de la Loze (170km)
Miguel Angel López (Astana) How early the break goes will partly decide whether it stays out in front and plays for the win. I think the favourites will hoover up remnants on that fearsome last climb. López appears to be getting his best form when it matters most and being a boy from altitude, he eats climbs over 2,000 metres for breakfast. Let's face it, Colombia need something to cheer them up after the Bernal capitulation.
Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) An unexpected return to glory for Thibaut Pinot, greeted at the finish line by his jubilant goats. It would be lovely wouldn't it? But back in reality, I still feel like Pogacar has a lot to give in this race - he seems so used to following Roglic's wheel, that it doesn't really seem to be a hindrance that his team have barely been able to provide him bottles, let alone support.
Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) This two-horse race is running out of road. I think the elder Slovenian could have won the sprint on Sunday had he really wanted to but was comfortable with losing exactly four seconds to his compatriot. It'll be another one-two for them to share, but this time Roglic will be showing who's boss.
Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) Okay, I'm slightly biased, as I've wanted the Tasmanian to win something for ages, but I think Richie Porte has a shot today. Now, I know it's a steep finish and Pog and Rog are the 'obvious' choices, but Porte was right behind them on the stage yesterday, it doesn't take a miracle to take a couple of metres.
Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) We’ve reached the point, sadly, where teams are fighting to protect their top-ten positions, rather than trying to win the bloody race. So, much as I rather fancy Adam Yates for this one, it’s hard to see anyone giving him free rein. Barguil, on the other hand, is well out of the GC battle, has an ailing leader in Nairo Quintana, and has nothing to lose. And his name is Warren. The Duracell bunny of Le Tour. Allez Wawa!
Cycling Mole says...
We hit the crossbar today, picking some quality riders who made the break, but no one had Lenny Kämna. Stage 17 and the one we’ve all been waiting for, with the Madeleine/Col de la Loze double. The Loze is the highest climb in this year’s race, it’s a brutal cycling path that finishes with 5km at 10%.
As usual, I find myself contemplating the chances for the breakaway. The pan flat start is bad news, the mountaintop finish is bad news, but the race situation is great. Only eleven men are within seven minutes of Roglič, which makes it very unlikely a GC threat will make the break. Once the move gets established, who will chase it? UAE don’t have the team, Jumbo-Visma would be silly to bring the bonus seconds into play, and no one else has the will. Unless another team finally grows a pair of balls, I see the break taking another win.
The panel disagree, but don’t they always. Ian is only one who agrees with my thinking, his pick of Warren Barguil isn’t too bad either. The rest of the team are thinking it’ll be a GC day. Miles must be back on the peace pipe; the pick of Richie Porte still has me laughing. The Aussie might be having a good race, but he doesn’t stand a chance of winning this stage. Andy thinks that López eats 2000m climbs for breakfast, which seems like a peculiar diet to me. I’ll let you into a little secret, the Colombian has never won a race in France, sorry Andy. At least Nick and Ben are thinking straight, picking the big two. Pogačar has recently been quicker in the sprint, but we’ll have to see how he gets on after such a demanding stage.
Moi? Despite everything pointing to a GC day, I think the break will make it, especially when I see that thunderstorms are predicted in the afternoon. After not featuring in a break for a few days, I’ll roll the dice again with Marc Hirschi, despite a nagging feeling that Ineos might just get a win.